The soil is soaked like a wet sponge. Rubenroden hardly works under these circumstances. If there is no sustained improvement in the weather, the sugar factory is in danger of running out of raw material in the middle of the campaign. The sugar beet growing community has already reacted by purchasing another sugar beet harvester in order to be able to adapt more flexibly to conditions.
"We live from hand to mouth," is how ernst merz from the reuben department of the ochsenfurt sudzucker plant describes the situation. Only about 30,000 tons of stubble are stored ready for removal at the field edges, the same amount that the factory processes in two days. In normal years, the supply had to last for ten to 15 processing days.
Reason are the knockdowns of the past weeks. 60 liters per square meter have fallen in the ochsenfurt gau, in some areas of lower franconia up to 100 liters. The ground is soaked. "Normally, october is up to around 20. Around a few days of precipitation," says merz. This year the fields are softened.
Working with heavy reeders is out of the question in many places under such conditions. When fully loaded, they weigh around 50 tons. Despite extra-wide tires that distribute the weight roughly, the soft ground suffered considerable damage from compaction. Good and permeable soils should rest for two to three days after the rain before the harvester can start work, says ernst merz. Heavy, impermeable floors take at least twice as long to dry out.
Under these conditions, the sugar beet growers’ association, which clears the beet with its machines, and the maindreieck machinery ring, which coordinates clearing and transport, are particularly challenged. "Our rota plan has to be interrupted again and again and adapted to weather and soil conditions," says jutta michel, the machinery ring’s managing director.
In normal years, the clearing is completed in the first days of november. The stalks are sometimes stored for several weeks until they are removed from the fields. After starting two weeks late due to the cold and wet spring, the harvest is now further behind schedule. Time is of the essence because many farmers want to sow winter wheat in their fields immediately after the harvest, according to the machinery ring’s managing director.
The growers’ association has therefore decided to bring forward the purchase of another grape harvester planned for next year. Purchase price: around half a million euros. With six of the technical innovations, farmers are now trying to take advantage of every favorable weather phase as best they can.
Reuben inspector ernst merz praises the efforts farmers are making to keep the flow of reuben to the factory going. Nevertheless, he is not entirely comfortable with the thought of the small supply. "We have to take the reuben as they come out of the field," he says. With the result that a relatively large amount of dirt still clings to them. "It was good if we could leave them for another ten days" – then the soil dries and remains on the field for loading. The fact that the weight of the grapes continues to increase is little consolation to klaus ziegler, managing director of the french sugar grape growers’ association. The mild temperatures allow the growth, but the power of the sun is no longer sufficient to form additional sugar. The mass grows, the sugar content decreases.
Sugar content currently stands at 17.3 percent. On average during the campaign, it will probably still rise to 17.8 percent. Contrary to initial forecasts, the yield per hectare has risen from 60 to just under 65 tons – which is almost the average of the last ten harvests.
In recent years, grape growers have been spoiled by high yields and above-average market prices. As a result, the acreage for quota-regulated grapes had been reduced this year. The 2013 stubble harvest brought farmers back down to earth. "That’s just the situation now," says klaus ziegler, "we have to get through it.".
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